Can we has lunch?
August 12, 2012 9:28 AM   Subscribe

Easy lunch ideas?

My twelve yr old daughter starts school tomorrow and is done with sandwiches. Doesn't want anything to do with them so we need easy, healthy lunch ideas for school. She will have access to a fridge and a microwave but I'd rather keep it easy. We will do the leftover thing but I'm hoping for some new ideas... Thanks everyone!!
posted by pearlybob to Food & Drink (20 answers total) 39 users marked this as a favorite
I hate sandwiches too. The way my Mom used to cope was to get me to pick (within reason) what I thought I might eat at school, then buy those things for me. Then, it was my responsibility to pack my own lunch, and to bring back the empty bag.

Things that I wound up eating:
Little boxes of raisins
sesame snaps
baggies full of little bits of cheese and ham, with crackers (or peanut butter and crackers)
fruit for eating out of hand
Yogurt pots

Honestly, I suggest a homemade version of a lunchables package, with crackers and one of the following:tiny can of tuna, cut-up cheese and ham, small tub of low-fat cream cheese with red-pepper jelly, peanut butter (if that's allowed). Infinite variety, for reasonable cost, and you can control the salt and fat content better than with the pre-packaged!
posted by LN at 9:36 AM on August 12, 2012 [3 favorites]

You don't mention any dietary restrictions - my son takes vegan lunches, but most of my suggestion can be adapted to whatever ingredients your daughter prefers.

Fresh Spring Rolls- super easy to make, fill with whatever veggies/protein she likes.
Wraps - i do a hummus & avocado one, but you can do lots of stuff.
Cold Soba Noodle Salad - make sure the noodles are 100% buckwheat, not mostly wheat flour
Quinoa & Veggie Salad - again, just throw in whatever veggies/protein she likes.
Soup in a Thermos - This is great for cold weather, and useful for leftovers
Crackers and Nut Butters - Peanut butter, almond butter, whatever
posted by dotgirl at 9:38 AM on August 12, 2012

I hate sandwiches too! I take salad everyday. I buy the bagged stuff and change the type when I get bored of one type of leaves. I add orange & yellow peppers, baby tomatoes, radishes, and cucumber. If I'm organized, I cut up the peppers on Sunday evening and then just grab the bits out of the fridge in the morning and put it together. When I lived in Canada I had a bottle of spray salad dressing that I used, but now that I'm in the UK where the most popular dressing is 'salad cream' which seems to be a close relative of mayonnaise I just eat it dry since the cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers and radishes add lots of moisture. I often buy 'bistro lettuce' that has shredded beetroot which makes my salad even better. I take a little baby bell cheese and yogurt and I'm all set, but you could add protein to it too.
posted by CdnMathTeacher at 10:04 AM on August 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

Sandwiches often bore me, but taking some sliced bread and some spreadable (in my case, seasoned goat) cheese is different enough to be a treat.
posted by notsnot at 10:21 AM on August 12, 2012

Response by poster: No dietary restrictions except pineapple. Allergic to pineapple.
posted by pearlybob at 10:25 AM on August 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

sticks and dips! So not a sandwich.
Assorted stick ideas: jicama, carrots, celery, bell peppers, pretzels.
Assorted dip ideas: flavored cream cheese, nut butters, hummous, honey-mustard, sweet BBQ, ranch, chive or veggie dip.
posted by iamkimiam at 10:30 AM on August 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

Lunch skewers. Slide whatever cold meats, cheeses and veggies she likes on a skewer. So for example, cherry tomato, basil, sausage, bocconcini --- ham, cheddar, cucumber, red pepper ----salami, Gouda, tomato.
posted by Cuke at 10:35 AM on August 12, 2012 [3 favorites]

At about that age, I was done with sandwiches but did not consider a bagel with cream cheese to be a "sandwich." I was too picky to add anything else, but cukes, roasted red peppers, etc. would be great.
posted by desuetude at 11:04 AM on August 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

Bean salads are a great way to get protein and veggies, and as a bonus they're easier to carry because you can put the dressing on ahead of time. I just did chickpeas + green beans + red peppers + red onions with white wine vinegar and olive oil, which was good, but infinite variations also exist. If you don't want to make your own dressing, Italian dressing out of a bottle is really good for bean salads.

No-lettuce Greek salad (feta, black olives, tomato, cucumber, green pepper) is also a good salad that can have dressing added in the morning and still be tasty at lunch. Also coleslaw or other cabbage salads.
posted by snorkmaiden at 11:12 AM on August 12, 2012

Check out bento box lunches for inspiration!
posted by barnone at 2:10 PM on August 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

Here is a previous question I asked that has some good suggestions. Here's a recent question about packing lunch for an adventurous 4.5 year old.
  • Chicken salad (not necessarily with mayo) with a side of fruit and/or crackers almonds and cheese with some fruit
  • dried fruits are filling, but make sure she's drinking enough water, also watch the sugar content
  • hard boiled eggs
  • I like cold potato salad with chicken or other meaty thing for lunch, she might too
  • salads with a protein, just give her the dressing separate like this or in a purpose made container. Someone gave me a super awesome one from bed bath and beyond, but I don't know how to search their website for it, and no idea what the brand was.
  • puff pastry with meat and cheese or something else savor inside. I love these.
  • pita (either soft or as chips) and hummus
  • For keeping items separated in the lunch, I love the idea of these silicone baking cups, which you can get with a 40% off coupon at Michael's or Joann Fabric. Uses fewer plastic zipper baggies
  • if you're worried about her sodium intake, you can make salad dressings at home.

posted by bilabial at 2:41 PM on August 12, 2012

Precooked cheese tortellini with a little olive oil -- very easy to make (you can just boil them while everyone's eating breakfast), surprisingly good cold. My mother gave me these all the time in school lunches.

Will she eat tuna salad? It doesn't have to be the kind with mayo, which could be a bit iffy if she forgets to put it in the fridge -- tuna (especially the oil-packed kind) can be really good with just some lemon juice and chopped red onion.

White bean salad! White beans + chopped tomato + basil + mozzarella + oil + vinegar. Like a caprese salad with protein!

Cold meatballs are also pretty good. Maybe with a little container of sauce to dip them in?

Cheese cubes + olives?

You could make a batch of these mushroom pockets on the weekend and freeze them for emergency one-step lunches.
posted by ostro at 2:53 PM on August 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

Salad in a jar maybe something she'd enjoy and works great.
posted by mikeo2 at 5:58 PM on August 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

Do quesadillas count as sandwiches? They work great because they're fine cold (at least to me) and are really easy to eat.

Also tortellini or ravioli can be great finger food if pre-cooked the night before. Just stick 'em in a plastic bag.
posted by sparrow89 at 6:04 PM on August 12, 2012

I often enjoy cold quinoa and cubed avocado tossed with some lemon juice. Kind of salad-like without all that sad wilted lettuce.
posted by janepanic at 6:40 PM on August 12, 2012

This'll depend on your kid, but the default lunch in my house is this 1/3 c couscous mixed with 1/2 c chicken broth, 1/3 tin of rinsed and drained chickpeas, a squirt of lemon juice, a little olive oil, and some frozen spinach. Potential add-ins include chopped roasted peppers, capers, parmesan cheese, preserved lemon, leftover sauteed veggies, chicken, etc. This is good hot or cold.

My daughter (nine) often takes various noodle or rice salads, and those seem to go well. Suggestions:

-Soba noodles, spinach, cucumbers, peppers, tofu cubes, green onions, and carrots, dressed in sesame oil/soy sauce/chicken broth
-Rice, corn, black beans, green onions, and avocado, dressed with lime juice, olive oil, cilantro, and garlic whirled together in the blender. (This is great with tortillas or chips.)
-Tortellini, chunks of chicken, chunks of peppers, sweet onion, and parmesan, dressed with olive oil, oregano, and red wine vinegar. (Alternatively, dress it with purchased poppyseed dressing.)
-Soba noodles with spinach, mandarin oranges, and small chunks of leftover steak, tossed with a little orange juice and maybe some garlic.

Onigiri have been wildly successful, too. We usually stuff them with bits of leftovers.

Also, though she won't eat sandwiches, mine's perfectly happy to take sandwich components. So meat, cheese, and either bread or crackers. I try not to rely on it too much, but it works in a pinch.
posted by MeghanC at 6:55 PM on August 12, 2012 [2 favorites]

Lately my easy lunch is: cook a bunch of couscous ahead of time and flavor with olive oil and salt. The night before take out a serving of couscous, mix with bagged lettuce of some sort and throw in some feta. Super fast and easy.
posted by nanhey at 7:30 PM on August 12, 2012

I liked the book "Vegan Lunch Box" by Jennifer Mcann when I was making the lunches for my household. There are lots of good ideas that can be un-vegan'd if you prefer. Some of my greatest hits included:

-- Rice with stuff on it, such as vegetables and sauce or Rice/Peas/Cheese.
--Cut up fruit and veg, crackers and cheese
--Tortilla roll-ups with hummus and veg inside. Roll everything up tightly and slice it into "pinwheels."
--Creative salad, such as apples, nuts, and cheese, or salad with an unusual crouton like Goldfish crackers
--Mini sandwiches cut into shapes with a cookie cutter
--Festival of Garnishes, which is a selection of pickles, vegetables, fruit pieces, and crackers.
--Polenta "fries" and potato wedges

Left to myself, I eat broccoli with hummus, then some cookies.
posted by blnkfrnk at 8:05 PM on August 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

Oh, and in the winter when I want a hot lunch, I bulk-prepare noodles with broccoli and sauce. (Plus cookies.)
posted by blnkfrnk at 8:07 PM on August 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

Some thoughts about containers and packing:

I bring salad everyday and I put the dressing in the bottom and shake it at lunchtime, just like those salad-in-a-jars do, but instead of a jar I use those Pyrex round glass dishes with the rubber lid. Holds a lot of salad, and it's easy to eat out of.

If you want to do homemade Lunchables, we found some tupperware containers that had divided sections so it kept the stacks of meat, cheese, and crackers separate and felt more like the "real" Lunchables.

I keep my lunch in an insulated bag with a big block of blue reusable ice; it sits at my desk all day and is still cold to eat at lunchtime with no refrigerator.

I knew someone in grade school who brought a thermos of hot soup, but inside it was a hot dog with a string tied around it. She pulled out the hot dog, put it on a bun with ketchup, and had 1/2 serving of soup to eat with it.

If you are worried about whether she will have equivalent food as a sandwich, it might ease your mind if you type the new foods into an online calorie counter (Sparkpeople or Fitday or Daily Plate, etc) just to compare. Maybe it would be ok, or maybe it would lead you to also include an extra piece of fruit or more protein or whatever.
posted by CathyG at 1:55 PM on August 13, 2012

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